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Christian legal group: Gays can’t force Christian clerks to issue same-sex marriage licenses

Tuesday, November 20, 2012
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SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — A Christian legal group on Monday sent a memorandum to marriage officials in the three states where gay marriage was legalized in last week’s elections, advising them they “do not have to violate their faith or conscience by personally issuing licenses to applicants who are of the same sex.”

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF, formerly Alliance Defense Fund) a American conservative Christian nonprofit organization, sent the advisory to municipal clerks and other officials responsible for issuing marriage licenses in Maine, Maryland and Washington.

The memos stated:

[...] In light of the three states’ “recent redefinition of marriage to include same-sex couples,” some clerks and auditors “might believe that they face a serious dilemma: either resign their positions or violate their sincerely held religious beliefs by issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples.”

However, those officials “can readily resolve this potential religious conflict” by acting on the authority they have to appoint their responsibilities to deputies or assistants.

“No American should be forced to give up a constitutionally protected freedom, nor should any American be forced to give up his or her job to maintain that freedom,” said Austin R. Nimocks, who serves as senior legal counsel to ADF in its Washington, D.C. office.

“Religious freedom is paramount to every American, including those issuing marriage licenses. They can perform their job without violating their conscience,” he said.

Nimocks added that the people and the governments should respect the faith and conscience of the clerks and that by doing so should provide no impediment to carrying out the law as the exclusions provided the basis for that respect.

One Washington D.C. based legal analyst told LGBTQ Nation Monday that a county clerk issuing a marriage license is only required to ensure that the couple meetings the legal requirements of that state for marriage, such as residency, age, etc.:

“If the couple agrees to be married and otherwise meets the legal requirements, by issuing the license, the clerk is merely certifying that the couple meets the legal requirements; the clerk is not required to perform or officiate the wedding (which is always separate from issuing and recording the license), nor otherwise approve or endorse.

“By telling clerks not to issue license, the ADF is recommending insubordination over something that is not even within the clerk’s prescribed legal duties nor responsibility.”

“In no case is the clerk required or even allowed to make a moral determination of suitability or appropriateness of any specific couple,” said the analyst, who works in the Justice Department’s civil rights division.

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